Monthly Archives: March 2010

>Jessica Watson and Abby Sunderland, the tortoise and the hare. Pandora launches soon, promise!

>I neglected to mention that Jessica Watson’s blog has been moved to her site and away from Blogger.  All of her postings have been moved as well. Her site also shows a nice graphic of where she is (now crossing the Indian Ocean and about 1,500km from Australia.  To fully appreciate the graphics you need to have Google Earth on your computer.  Check it out as it’s a great program.  She’s not that close to home yet as she has to go around to the other side of the continent before she is back home. However she continues to make progress and the weather remains a big part of her life and recently, very interesting, I would say.  Her most recent post today makes the conditions sound really rough with seas over 20′ tall.  The progress that she has made, in spite of all that she has faced, speaks to the wonderful boat she has, , n older sea kindly design that is easy on her and tough as nails.

It’s a very interesting contrast to see how Abby Sunderland, who’s make the trip from California on a very different boat, an Open 40, is doing.  This is a state of the art yacht design that’s a lot faster and very high tech.  However, the biggest problem that she has, in my opinion, is that her reliance on electronic gear is total.  Jessica’s steering is a low tech wind vane, a very tough piece of equipment that is not likely to give up the ghost.  Jessica’s most recent post states that the wind vane on her steering system broke and was very simple for her to bolt on a new one in a few minutes.  On the other hand, Abby’s electronic pilot broke down the other day and she ended up hand steering the boat all night while being drenched by near freezing water until she was able to fix it the next morning when she called her shore side team for advice.

The ability to steer a boat and get some rest is very fundamental to a successful voyage and you have to wonder if it’s possible for someone as young as Abby to have a successful voyage in a boat that is so technology dependent.   It makes me wonder if this will end up being a “tortoise and the hare”.  Time will tell.

Interestingly, with all the talk about the “youngest around” both Guinness and the World Speed Council have dropped their “youngest” records.   This isn’t surprising given all the talk about who’s too young to sail a boat on their own long distances.

Closer to home, Pandora was nearly ready to launch as planned yesterday but I decided to leave her in the marina for a few more weeks to finish up on some last minute rigging and electronics details.  A year ago, when I was checking out all the systems, I discovered that the Raymarine plotter/radar wasn’t working properly.  It turned on but the system wouldn’t recognize the charts so the screen didn’t have any detail on it.  Getting this fixed was a real pain and required getting the unit off of the boat and back to the factory for repair.  The folks at Raymarine told me that the problem was a rare one and fixed it.   Now, a year later, same problem.  This “rare” problem is not so rare it seems.

This is really very aggravating as I had to scramble, get a special tool, remove the unit AGAIN and now I have to send it back to the factory for repair, AGAIN.

I mention this as one example of what tech can do if it doesn’t work as advertised.  I love all of the new equipment but Jessica Watson’s experiences are a good example of why some systems have to be low tech to be safe.   Pandora has an electronic autopilot and I have to wonder what would happen if we suffered a breakdown on a long trip.

Our next visit to Annapolis, and the real start to the sailing season, won’t happen till the end of the month.  I can’t wait.

>Just one week to go to Pandora’s launch for 2010!

>I can’t believe it.  After the long cold winter Pandora is about ready to be launched in Annapolis.  Brenda and I took a long weekend in beginning Thursday evening to work on getting Pandora ready to go in the water on March 29th. 

We spent the night aboard even though the boat was up on land in the Marina for three nights while we worked on the boat.  Fortunately, the ESPAR diesel heater that I installed last winter worked well and kept us warm each night.  With the nights still getting quite cool, we were happy to have the heater humming away.

The list of chores to focus on was daunting but we managed to get most of them done prior to heading back on Sunday afternoon. 

I have been struggling with a vibration for the last two seasons in the drive train and exhausted about every option to solve the problem with the exception of having the propeller worked on.  The prop on Pandora is an elaborate feathering propeller designed to minimize drag when the boat is sailing.  Pulling it off of the boat is not a simple task and involves breaking it into it’s individual pieces prior to pulling it off of the shaft. 

I sent it back to the distributor and was distressed to learn that it needed a major overhaul. The vibration that I had was because the gears in the feathering mechanism were worn and needed to be replaced.  Now that it’s back and I see how it operates now, I can see just how worn it was.  I am really pleased with how smooth the operation is now. 

The prop is designed to engage the proper pitch, in forward or reverse and yet move into a more “slippery” feathered position when I am sailing.  The ability to feather eliminates a good deal of drag on the boat in sailing mode.  You can imagine how a prop of this size, 22″ in diameter would slow things down.

In this shot you can see how much different the profile is.  Yes, it’s much more hydrodynamic.
Now that it’s done I can only marvel at how shiny it looks.  To me it looks like gold and it should, given what it cost to repair. These pictures will only be a memory as it will tarnish right away when it hits the water.

Along with loads of big and little chores, I polished the entire hull which took hours but the results are wonderful.  You can’t tell that the boat was built in 1998.   With a shiny hull and new standing rigging plus a newly painted mast, the boat looks terrific. 

Not a speck of dirt on the hull.   Now, just a bit of touchup on the bottom paint and she will go in ready to travel.

The one bad part of the weekend is that my new holding tank leaks. Fortunately, I had the idea of putting some red dye into the tank and filled it with water.  All was well until several hours had passed and the bilge began to fill with red water.   My first thought was how much work I had put into getting that tank to fit and how difficult it would be to get it out and fixed.  My second thought was what it would have been like if we had used the tank for sewage and had it leak into the bilge. I prefer the red dye.  Well, I know what I will be doing next Saturday. Time to rip the cabin apart again. Yuck.  At least he bilge won’t stink. 

They say that yachting is fixing boats in exotic places.  Well, the marina in Annapolis isn’t exotic but fix the boat I must. 

Well, back to work again.  Monday work awaits!

>Down to the home stretch to launch Pandora in Annapolis

>Well, I was supposed to be in Annapolis this weekend with Brenda but the weather conspired, for different reasons than excessive cold or snow, to keep us away.  It’s pouring both in NJ and down in Annapolis where Pandora is.  It’s quite amazing how much there is to get the boat ready each year and the number of upgrades are just overwhelming.  With the scheduled launch date of March 29th, I will have to be very organized to be sure that all is in order when she goes in.

Brenda and I will be headed down this coming Thursday to spend a three day weekend cleaning and doing last minute repairs and gear upgrades.

Last weekend I was there alone and put in a new holding tank, something that I have been meaning to do for several years now.  The old tank was quite small and also had seen some seepage so the bilge needed a bit of cleaning.  When I pulled it out I was stunned to see how much “soil” had accumulated under the tank in the bilge.  Now wonder that the boat had been smelling more than a bit “off” of late.  Having a good holding tank is really needed these days as the fines for not handling sewage properly can be quite painful.  No point in pumping overboard as we want to be as green as we can afford to be.

Speaking of “green” yachts, for some reason I have been getting several of those megayacht magazines sent to me at home.  I didn’t sign them up and am certainly not an owner of anything that would come close to be classified as “mega”.   Perhaps it’s my zipcode combined with a boat over 40′.  I will say that Pandora can feel pretty mega when she is being blown onto a dock and I am trying to fend her off.  Besides that, she feels decidedly un-mega. 

Anyway, I have been struck by how the editorial coverage in these magazines, and Yachting as well, has evolved since everyone has become so conscious of being environmentally correct.   Now, you can’t pick up an issue without seeing articles about yachts that are “going green” and the latest megayacht green technology.  The March issue of Show Boats International has the cover story “Top 100 Largest Yachts in the World”, and there’s even content talking about what’s in the works to make these behemoths environmentally friendly.  It’s quite amusing to imagine anyone suggesting that a boat that’s 200′ long with just a hand full of guests aboard burning tons of fuel per day could ever be green.  They write breathlessly about how how all black and grey water discharges are clean enough to drink once they go overboard.  I wonder how many tons of CO2 are being spewed out to clean up their waste.  It seems to me that the path to being more environmentally friendly should certainly include sails as opposed to engine only power.

In spite of my opinion on this I have to say that I would love to be on one of those monsters for a trip.  There I go, double standards again.  Oh well we all want to be green when it is…convenient.

Back to semi-green Pandora…

This shot is of the new custom tank and the one that it replaces.  Nice to know that we have room for a generous amount of *&%$ now. 

Once I took out the old tank I cleaned up the bilge to prepare if for the new custom built tank.  “Custom” means expensive, as seems to be the case of everything on a boat, or should I say yacht.

Here’s a shot of the new tank in place.  Now, that’s a really tight fit.  I have to say that I did loose some sleep the night before I put this tank in place as I laid awake wondering if I had tried to put in the biggest tank possible and had over done it.  Well, it fit.  However, it was a really, really tight fit and took nearly an entire day to get the hoses set and finish the installation. 

The mast is just about done now and looks just terrific.  I am particularly excited about the cell phone booster that I had installed on the top of the mast this year.  This antenna, that sits at the top of the mast will, according to the manufacturer Digital Antenna, boost my cell range up to 50 miles from a cell tower.  With our planned travels between Virginia and Eastern Maine this year, we should have good coverage most of the time.  I sure hope so as I have gone to great lengths, and mucho $$, to get this installed. 

This shot of the mast head shows just how much stuff there is up top now.  The big circle is a TV antenna.  How decadent.  We have never had access to TV on the boat before so this will be a treat.   Our plan is to spend more time aboard this year as I have left my job of 17 years and have formed a new medical education company with a partner.  While I intend to work full time, I have now set up Pandora so that I can work easily from on board and have great phone coverage.   When I have to go to appointments, I will just head home for a few days and leave Pandora where ever she is.  As things grow over time, I expect that the pull of the office will increase, but for now I am looking forward to being aboard a bit more.

All that nice shiny standing rigging.  Some of the old stuff had some rust.  Did it need to be replaced?  Who knows but a standing rig is better than a broken rig any day.  I know several friends who have lost their rigs overboard due to rigging failure and it happened in moderate conditions.  Perhaps it was reading about Jessica Watson’s knockdown and 180 capsize experience that made me decide to do the upgrade.

The rig is supposed to go back in this week so it will be fun to see how it looks when I get down on Thursday.  

As part of the rig upgrade I am putting on a running forestay to fly my storm jib.  That will involve putting a fitting a few feet back from the bow where the much smaller storm jib will be set.  Between that and my new 3rd reef, I will be able to handle winds in the 40kt range, I would think.   Let’s hope that Brenda’s not on board when the winds hit 40 as she won’t be a happy camper. She has sailed in 30kts but 40kts is a whole different ball game.

I am very hopeful that the weather will cooperate and Brenda and I will be able to get Pandora ready to splash as planned on the 29th.   We have a slip arranged up the Magothy River just north of Annapolis for the months of April and May.  From there we will head north to Mystic CT, to Wickford RI and on to Maine in August.  The plan is to bring Pandora back to Annapolis at the end of the season to begin the process all over again. 

I plan on writing about the ports that we visit and the sights along the way on a regular basis this year and will hopefully be able to provide some commentary along the way that will help you better see something in my coverage that you will find of interest and hopefully, inspire you to spend time cruising the Middle Atlantic and New England waters.

Here’s to a great summer of sailing.